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Goodbye, Brownies on The Pillow: Hotels Ditch Services in an Effort to Save Some Cash

August 26, 2009 at 10:58 AM | by | ()

The Gramercy Park Hotel, which by the way, is still a five-star hotel.

All of the sudden the outlook for the hospitality industry seems to have gone from bad but with hope on the horizon, to worse with drastic cost-cutting measures now taking place.

Indeed, 2009 has been one of the worst years in history for hotels but yet the best year for travelers looking for steep deals. However, just because you got that five-star hotel for half of its usual price, doesn't mean you'll be getting all the perks you'd expect.

A new report says that hotels have begun dropping stars from their star ratings so that they can reduce their level of services and save money. Some hotels that have already done this? Starwood and Hilton Hotels. And here's why.

Hotel operators need to reduce services to conserve cash. Occupancy rates for luxury hotels worldwide fell to 57 percent in the year through July from 71 percent in the same period a year earlier, a bigger drop than for other types of accommodation, according to Smith Travel Research.

The average daily room rates at the most luxurious hotels around the world dropped 16 percent to $245.13, the Tennessee- based hotel-data company estimates. Prices for mid-range hotels fell about 13 percent to $87.12.

Overservice Might Be Overdone
The slightly good news is that cutback of services seems to be happening at mostly five-star hotels where the amenities and perks tend to be examples of overservice. For instance, if you order a bottle of wine for room service at a five-star hotel, the waiter must present you with the bottle for inspection and then pour the wine for you.

Gifts on the pillow at turndown, welcome amenities and the like could also be cut back if a hotel decides to move from a five-star rating to a four-star. The bath butler however, will probably remain because that's an added service you pay for.

In short, if a hotel drops from a five-star to a four-star, you might not even notice. But if a hotel drops from a four-star to a three-star, you will definitely know. An example: Four-star hotels tend to have 24-hour room service with delivery within 30 minutes. Three-star hotels, not so much. Four-star hotels should have at least one bathrobe in the guest rooms. Three-star hotels just throw in an extra towel.

Concierges Still in Peril
Another aspect of hotel service at the four and five-star levels that could be affected is the Concierge service. We've already heard the not-so-quiet whispers that the Four Seasons has been "phasing out" some of their concierges at different properties. But we'll continue to observe the Concierge Desk for any other signs.

What We've Seen Lately
In our recent luxury hotel stays, we haven't noticed too much that's different. Service at The Plaza in New York in June was extremely five-star from the bellman who explained nearly everything in our room to the front desk clerk who handed us our check-out folio in a crisp Plaza Hotel envelope. Not to mention, all the goodies inside the room itself were stellar.

However, at The Palazzo in Las Vegas the other week, the waiting time for room service at 10am on a Monday morning was insane. We finally gave up after being on hold for 20 minutes. Yes, 20 minutes. Also, in the hotel's Canyon Ranch fitness center where access either requires $40 or a spa treatment, they stopped handing out bottled water. Instead paper cups were placed throughout with signs saying the hotel was trying to be more eco-friendly. Then guests were pointed to the water fountains. Being eco-friendly for hotels can also mean "cutting back on expenses."

What types of services and amenities have you noticed hotels cutting back on in an effort to save money? Tell us which hotel and which service/amenity in comments below.

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